Everyone loves a thick tail—until they are the one that has to comb through it.
I get a lot of questions regarding how I take care of Ax’s tail and keep it so thick. Aside from the fact that hair care is in my blood (thanks mom), I don’t really do anything special. But people are asking and I will give the people what they want.
This is my biggest piece of advice. That means no picking out shavings and no combing or detangling of any kind—no anything. Carefully pulling out a stick or a long piece of hay if there is one stuck in there is fine, but other than that just leave it alone.
If the idea of having a shavings-filled tail is giving you anxiety, a firm grip on the tail bone (not just the hairs) followed by a light shake back and forth usually helps loosen most of debris. Also, if someone gives you grief about the shavings in your horse’s tail, and it will happen, tell them to go ruin their horse’s tail with a wire brush. (Just kidding, maybe you shouldn’t do that.)
My one exception to this rule is when you’re at a horse show or clinic—no one wants to walk into the show ring with a dreadlocked tail full of shavings.
Lather. Rinse. Don’t Repeat.
A good thorough washing is all the tail needs every month or two. By thorough I mean taking the time to get all of the crud off of your horse’s tailbone and the roots of the tail hairs. If you overdo it by washing too often, you lose a lot of the natural oils horse’s produce and you want to retain as much moisture as you can.
Personally, I like to use tea tree shampoo because I am a shampoo snob (again, thanks mom) and it helps with dandruff. I separate the tail into thin, horizontal sections and use the pads of my fingers to really scrub the roots.
Equally as important is making sure that all the shampoo is completely rinsed out, especially at the tailbone. Leftover suds are itchy and the last thing you want is your horse rubbing his bum (and leaving behind half of his tail) on the fence.
I comb through Ax’s tail once every month or two and preferably only when it is freshly washed and dried (except in the winter). The best tools for this are your fingers or a wide-toothed comb. Brushes, especially wire ones or those with the plastic nubs on the bristles, tend to cause breakage and can easily rip out the hair.
As you would with your own hair, always start from the bottom and work your way toward the root, gently untangling any knots. Because his is so thick, I like the separate Ax’s tail into small sections and comb through those, tying them into a loose slip-knot as I go.
I typically don’t use a detangler as the majority of them are silicone-based and I prefer to keep his tail gunk-free, but if it is extra knotted or borderline dreaded, I’ll use a dollop of The Herbal Horse USA Healthy Hair (silicone-free, are you seeing a trend?).
P.S. – Combing through a wet tail requires extra caution as hair is more elastic when wet, meaning it can easily stretch and then snap off. If you don’t have time to wait for it to dry, a human “wet brush” will do the trick with the least amount of damage.
Long tails are great. Too long tails get stepped on and ripped out. How short you bang the tail is entirely up to you, just make sure it is off the ground and as straight across as you can make it. If you decide to leave it long, a tail bag will keep it off the ground and out of hooves’ way.